Sliding a steel kada further up his forearm, Dileep Jain scans the furniture in his newest assignment, a two-bedroom flat in Borivli, and tucks his iPhone into his jeans pocket.
With practiced ease, he reaches for a large black bag of cartons, plastic sacks, bubble-wrap and
adhesive tape. This is the signal for his team of four to get to work.
One man heads to the kitchen to cover each piece of breakable crockery in bubble-wrap. The others, including 26-year-old Jain, start emptying a large cupboard shelf by shelf, stacking clothes, shoes and documents in boxes.
"Don't worry. You can trust us. We know our job," he says to the anxious-looking home owner.
Pacifying customers is a large part of the job, says Jain. A part that comes easily, after eight years of dealing with querulous fears about important papers, precious picture frames, heirloom mirrors and the like.
"I have to take care of the customers' sentiments and their belongings," he says.
Jain's career as a mover and packer began more than a decade ago, when he was just 15 and looking to earn some extra pocket money during his Class 9 summer vacation.
"Back then, my pocket money was just Rs. 2 per day," says Jain, the son of a grocery store owner. "So when I was offered an additional income of Rs. 98 per day, I jumped at it."
He started out as a daily wage earner with a small outfit in Kandivli.
Through college, he continued to take on part-time work as a carpenter, electrician, caterer and field manager for a private bank before launching Rang Movers and Packers in 2008, with Rs. 20,000 borrowed from friends.
In three months, he had paid back his debts, with interest.
With a network of 350 on-call labourers and two mini-trucks, Jain now helps about 100 house owners, renters and industrial offices relocate every month.
Part of his job requires him "to crawl across grills like Spiderman", as he did two months ago, protecting three 200-kg wooden cupboards as they were lowered down five floors from a window because the door was too small.
Always eager to get to work and boost his business, Jain starts his day at 5 am, with two glasses of lukewarm water followed by a shower. He then heads to the a local sports club on his bike, for two hours of cricket.
"My job involves manual labour. I need to keep my muscles strong and healthy," he says.
Breakfast, at 9 am, is a cup of tea and a paratha, after which Jain leaves the 400-sq-ft office-cum-home in Bandra where he lives alone, to head out to his company's first assignment of the day.
The next three hours are spend lifting, packing and supervising.
Lunch, at 1 pm, is usually at a local restaurant, and then it's back to work. Dinner is whenever the last assignment of the day is done.
Fond of cooking, Jain usually makes his own dinner, his favourite meal being chapatis and karela sabzi with mango pickle. After dinner, Jain watches the news on TV, then plays video games on his iPhone. He rarely takes a day off. On nights when sleep evades him, Jain logs on to Facebook, again on his phone and chats with friends. He won't reveal his monthly earnings, but does say he wants to add several portfolios to his business. On the cards: Rang Transport.
(This weekly feature explores the lives of those unseen Mumbaiites essential to your day)
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